Why historians condemn Trump

Why would a historian trying to sell his book risk alienating potential customers by devoting a web page to attacking Donald Trump? Because Trump has attacked the First Amendment, denied historical facts, and is working to undermine the work of historians and journalists.

Five actions you can take

Donald Trump—insecure and self-delusional, a profoundly unread man with the impulse control, attention span, and maturity of a 6-year-old—is now our President. (Read historian Tim Egan’s report card of Trump's first 30 days.)

 

I rooted for Trump to get the Republican nomination. I admit it. I enjoyed it when he used spot-on descriptions of his opponents: The “low-energy” Jeb Bush. “Little Marco” Rubio, who reminded us of that stereotypical, smarmy teacher’s pet in high school. Rick Perry, who should “be forced to take an IQ test.” And, of course, “Lyin’” Ted Cruz, the embodiment of the epitome of smear factories, Joe McCarthy. Even if Trump were elected, I thought, he would be less dangerous than Bush, Rubio, Perry, or Cruz because he's more incompetent and more of an opportunist.

 

I still believe that. If you think Trump is bad, think how much worse it would be if a religious ideologue like Mike Pence ever became President. At least Trump’s family was able to persuade him not to repeal executive-order protections for LGBT federal employees.

 

But we’re still left with despair, as well as a vicious, right-wing activist Supreme Court that selectively picks which of our nation’s founders it wants to channel to decide issues about privacy and abortion, internet access and intellectual property, campaign financing and health care.

 

What can reasonable people do about Trump?

 

1) Mock him.

The more we laugh at Trump, the more undermined he will become. Laughter is the best revenge. As Boss Tweed said: “I don’t care a straw for your newspaper articles. My constituents don’t know how to read, but they can’t help seeing them damned pictures.” So share those Saturday Night Live sketches with your parents, grandparents, and uncles and aunts. Sign up for the New Yorker’s free daily report by Andy Borowitz, and share it widely. Talk with your friends about the latest Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. Remind people that Trump is a terrible businessman who succeeded only because his lawyers helped him abuse bankruptcy laws.

 

2) Discredit him.

Trump was elected with fewer votes than his opponent—that’s a fact, despite his delusions—only because we inherited a primitive election system that is biased in favor of small, rural states. The Electoral College served its political purpose in 1789. It serves no useful purpose today. More than that, the election was influenced by FBI Director James Comey who violated existing FBI policy by announcing two weeks before the election more “evidence” related to Hillary’s emails. Two days before the election, he said, in essence, “Never mind.” But the damage was done. And Trump’s buddy, the Russian thug, Vladimir Putin, actively worked to find embarrassing information about Hillary. A legitimate president? Not on your life. And don’t let anyone forget it.

 

3) Focus on the 2018 Senate races.

The most important institution in America right now is the U.S. Senate, which confirms or rejects Supreme Court and other executive nominees. One-third of the Senate will be up for election in less than two years. The Democrats are three seats away from controlling the Senate. Contribute to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Frankly, it will be difficult for the Democrats to take the Senate. But not impossible.

 

4) Subscribe to a real newspaper.

The so-called mainstream media are our only firewall against Trump’s lies and “alternative facts.” The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post are leading the charge for truth, justice, and the American way, but your hometown journalists are also important. Subscribe in print or online, but subscribe. Facebook’s algorithms aren’t substitutes for real journalism. Subscribe. And if you have the money, get a gift subscription for a younger person.

 

5) Support our frontline troops.

In this war, the frontline troops are the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood. Although I suspect the ACLU will become increasingly ineffective as Trump starts filling the courts with judges who impose their religion and extremist ideology on others, it will continue to sue the pants off the most egregious offenders of the Bill of Rights. It’s inevitable that Planned Parenthood will lose federal funding given the makeup of the Congress and the lies about its role—yes, that was fake news about selling embryos for fun and profit—but in many parts of the country, it’s the only women’s health provider. Its structure (as a federation) is wacky, so I recommend giving to its national operations, rather than the regional ones (like the awkwardly named Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands, which serves mostly blue states). I also give money to the Trust Women Foundation, which serves women in some of the most desolate, underserved parts of the nation, including Kansas and Oklahoma.

 

Bobby Kennedy—for those of you too young to remember—was a U.S. Senator who probably would have been elected president if he hadn’t been assassinated in 1968. Speaking before black, white, and mixed-race South African students in the dark days of apartheid, he said:

 

Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation. … Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

 

Keep those tiny ripples of hope coming, folks.